Theory of Knowledge
1. What is Emotion?
Turn to your partner, and answer the
following questions together:
• How are emotions triggered?
• How long do emotions last?
•What determines the strength or weakness of an
• Is it possible to exert control over emotions? If so,
• Do you make emotions happen, or do they happen to
•How do emotions make you think differently?
Share your ideas with the class.
2. Theories of
The James-Lange Theory
Perception of emotionarousing stimulus
The James-Lange theory of emotion
states that different emotion-arousing
external stimuli will produce specific
physiological changes that in turn
directly cause specific emotional
Thus, the external stimuli of a
dangerous object will cause the
physiological response of adrenaline
release / increased heart rate, which in
turn is felt as the emotion of fear.
Interpretation of
changes as the
According to this theory,
you are afraid because
you run.
The Schachter-Singer Theory
Perception of emotionarousing stimulus
Physiological responses
Physiological responses
can be interpreted in
different ways –
different people may
label the same response
as a different emotion.
Cognitive identification of
feedback from
physiological responses as
a particular emotion
According to this theory, I feel my heart beating
fast because I’m afraid. He feels his heart beating
fast because he’s excited…
The Cannon-Bard Theory
Perception of
Conscious experience of emotion
General physiological changes
The Cannon-Bard theory of emotion states that conscious
feelings of emotion and physiological changes occur as separate
but simultaneous reactions to external emotion-arousing stimuli.
According to this theory, you feel fear at the sight of a
bear even before you run away from it.
In review – Theories of Emotion…
Source of Emotions
Evidence for
The Central Nervous System
generates specific physical
responses; observation of the
physical responses constitutes
Different emotions are
associated with different
physical responses.
The CNS generates non-specific
physical responses;
interpretation of the physical
responses in light of the
situation constitutes emotion.
Excitation generated by
physical activity can transfer
to increase emotional
Parts of the CNS directly
generate emotions;
experiencing physiological
responses is not necessary.
Direct brain stimulation can
produce feelings of pleasure
or discomfort associated with
“According to most psychologists in Western
• Emotion is usually temporary. Moods, by contrast, tend to last longer.
• Emotional experience is either positive or negative, pleasant or
• Emotion is triggered partly by a mental assessment of how a situation
relates to your goals.
• Emotional experience alters thought processes, often by directing
attention toward some things and away from others.
• Emotional experience elicits an action tendency, a motivation to behave
in certain ways.
• Emotional experiences are passions that happen to you, usually without
willful intent.
• You can exert some control over emotions, since they depend partly on
how you interpret situations.
(Bernstein, p. 310)
3. Emotion &
How many times in your life
have you done something that
was triggered by an emotion,
but without thinking?
Note some thoughts in your TOK
notebook, then share them with a
Can Emotion bypass the reasoning brain?
“A friend tells of having been on vacation in
England, and eating brunch at a canalside café.
Taking a stroll afterward along the stone steps
down to the canal, he suddenly saw a girl gazing at
the water, her face frozen in fear. Before he knew
quite why, he had jumped in the water – in his coat
and tie. Only once he was in the water did he
realize that the girl was staring in shock at a
toddler who had fallen in – whom he was able to
What made him jump in the water before he
knew why? The answer, very probably, was his
amygdala” (Goleman p. 17).
The James-Lange Theory
1. The person
perceives the
2. Information
about the snake is
processed in the
visual cortex (in
the neo-cortex, the
reasoning part of
the brain).
3. An emotional response occurs in the amygdala.
4. The emotional response triggers a physical reaction, such
as fighting or running away.
Counterclaim: Le Doux’s Theory
visual cortex
Therefore, impulsive feeling
does sometimes override the
rational part of the brain.
Le Doux’s work revealed how the
architecture of the brain gives the
amygdala a privileged position as
an emotional sentinel, able to
hijack the brain. His research has
shown that sensory signals from
eye or ear travel first in the brain
to the thalamus, and then to the
amygdala; a second signal from
the thalamus is routed to the
neocortex – the thinking brain.
This branching allows the
amygdala to begin to respond
before the neocortex, which mulls
information through several levels
of brain circuits before it fully
perceives and finally initiates a
more finely tailored response
(Goleman, p. 17).
When else might this happen?
• when we speak without thinking
• when we react on impulse (positive: to save someone’s life;
negative: to hit someone)
• when we act on a ‘hunch’ (and turn out to be right…or
very wrong)
• when we have irrational fears (phobias), such as a fear of that
spider, even though it’s tiny!
• when we are filled with jealousy because our girlfriend
/ boyfriend is talking very sweetly (or so it seems) to
someone else.
4. Emotion &
Elliot’s Tumour
Elliot’s tumour was the size of an orange. It was removed successfully, but after
the operation Elliot was a changed man. Although he was as bright as ever, he
used his time terribly, getting lost in minor details and losing all sense of priority.
He was fired from a succession of legal jobs, his wife left him, and he was
reduced to living in a spare room at his brother’s home.
Elliot’s neurologist, Antonio Damasio, found that although nothing was wrong
with his logic, memory, attention or any other cognitive ability, Elliot was
virtually oblivious to his feelings about what had happened to him. Most
strikingly, he could relate the tragic events of his life with complete dispassion, as
though he were an onlooker to the losses and failures of his past. His own tragedy
brought him no pain.
Damasio concluded that Elliot’s surgery, while successfully removing the tumour,
had also severed ties between the lower centres of the emotional brain, especially
the amygdala and related circuits, and the thinking abilities of the neocortex. As a
result, Elliot was unable to assign values to differing possibilities (Goleman, p.
visual cortex
Conclusion: Too little awareness of his own feelings
about things made Elliot’s reasoning faulty.
5. Are Emotions
learned or are they
Are these expressions the same in every culture?
Activity: look at the
facial expressions, A
to K, on the right.
Write down a word
or short phrase
describing the
emotion that is being
expressed. This is a
secret activity -do not
let anyone see what
you are writing!
Now share your words
with your group. Did
you all see the same
emotions, or were
there some
differences? What
conclusions can you
draw from this?
Claim: Ray Birdwhistell, anthropologist / linguist
‘When I first became interested in studying body
motion I was confident that it would be possible to
isolate a series of expressions, postures and
movements that were very denotative of primary
emotional states... As research proceeded… it
became clear that this search for universals was
culture-bound... There are probably no universal
symbols of emotional state... We can expect them
[emotional expressions] to be learned and patterned
according to the particular structures of particular
Birdwhistell, R. (1970). Kinesics and Context. Philadelphia, PA:
University of Pennsylvania Press.
Counterclaim: Paul Ekman, psychologist
• humans have 42 facial muscles
• using these, they are capable of pulling about 10,000
• about 3,000 of these are relevant to emotion
• most people around the world use similar
expressions for similar emotions
• this suggests that expressions of emotions are
innate, and not learned
• but this does not mean that people in different
cultures have the same emotions for the same
Paul Ekman: Basic Emotions
= emotions associated with fundamental life tasks, e.g. fear,
anger, disgust, sadness, joy, excitement, love
• basic emotions are goal-related
• these goals are linked to our evolution as a species and the
behaviour of our ancestors
Example: I am happy that my girlfriend messaged me
because it confirms that she loves me – and my goal is to
marry her and have children.
I am angry that my girlfriend didn’t message me, because
it goes against this goal.
Ekman, P. (1973). Cross-cultural studies of facial expression. In P.Ekman (ed.),
Darwin and Facial Expression: A Century of Research in Review.New York:
Academic Press, pp. 169- 222.
According to Paul Ekman:
“Each emotion thus prompts us in a direction which, in the course of
evolution, has done better than other solutions in recurring circumstances
that are relevant to goals. Stein & Trabasso (1992) say that in happiness a
goal is attained or maintained, in sadness there is a failure to attain or
maintain a goal, in anger an agent causes a loss of a goal, and in fear there is
an expectation of failure to achieve a goal. Tooby & Cosmides (1990) tell us
that emotions… deal with recurrent “adaptive situations…fighting, falling in
love, escaping predators, confronting sexual infidelity, and so on, each [of
which] recurred innumerable times in evolutionary history . . .” (pp. 407—
408). Tooby & Cosmides emphasize what I consider the crucial element
which distinguishes the emotions: our appraisal of a current event is
influenced by our ancestral past.”
Ekman, P. In T. Dalgleish and M. Power (Eds.). Handbook of Cognition and
Emotion. Sussex, U.K.: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 1999.
Summary: What have we learned, so far,
about emotion?
• Without curiosity – the feeling that knowing something is important – and a
desire for knowledge, most knowledge would be impossible.
• Without certain emotions, such as the ability to feel that one action or decision is
more valuable that another, we cannot reason effectively
• Emotions can sometimes lead us towards knowledge, even before we have
found a rational basis for that knowledge
• Emotions often override rational thought, leading to false
beliefs and inappropriate action based on those beliefs
• basic emotions may be goal-oriented
• the way we express emotions is probably universal; why we express them is probably cultural
• emotions allow us to prioritise our goals
When the music plays move about the room.
Feel free to dance, this is a natural response
to music.
When the music stops turn to the person
closest to you and discuss the prompt given
on the ppt slide.
One thing I didn’t
know before
about emotion…
I think the most
interesting thing
about emotion (as a
way of knowing) so
far has been…
I think intuition is…
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